Everyone loves apple pie! And everyone is talking about LilliPies, the baked-to-order pastries that come in assorted flavors (apple and more!), sizes, and specialties.
Chef/owner Jen Carson operates LilliPies, formerly known as Jen’s Cakes & Pastries, at The Cucina, located in the rear of the Princeton North Shopping Center at 1225 State Road.
“The Cucina is a licensed shared commercial kitchen,” explains Ms. Carson. “Currently, there are five tenants representing five different companies, and each focuses on a different food product.”
Formerly an elementary school teacher, with a master’s degree in education, Ms. Carson grew up in northern New Jersey in a big family where cooking was a major event.
“I came from a big Italian family,” she reports. “My mother was a great cook, and she especially liked to bake pies — always from scratch. I learned most of what I know about baking from her.”
After she married and had her first child, Ms. Carson left teaching, and as she recalls, “My husband gave me a cake-decorating course, and I fell in love with pastries.”
In 2004, the Carsons moved to Princeton. “This was after the birth of our third child, and I had stopped teaching. I thought I needed to do something creative for myself.”
She enrolled at the French Culinary Institute in New York City, where she majored in international bread baking and restaurant management. After graduating, she began concentrating on baking pies and initially took them and other baked goods to farmers markets in the area, including Princeton, West Windsor, and Princeton Forrestal Village. Her products were also featured at Small World Coffee in Princeton. In addition, Ms. Carson worked as bakery manager for Brick Farm in Hopewell.
Her pastries were such a big success that she decided to expand the operation to include baked-to-order items for individuals, corporations, and organizations. She also began to feature wedding and birthday cakes. The customers appreciated the freshness and flavors of her products.
As one client notes, “Everything tastes just right. Sweet, but not too sweet, and the little pies are just the right size for an after dinner treat or with afternoon tea. And not only does everything taste good, all the pies and cakes are so appealing to the eye.”
The major focus is on pies, including full-size 9-inch classic, 4½ inch single serving, and mini 3½ inch versions.
“Pies are my specialty, but I also make cakes, cookies, muffins, and granola. In addition, I am a bread baker. Sometimes, there are surprises too. On National Donut Day, I used my extra cake batter to bake some donuts. They were all very popular, and people have continued to ask for them.”
Ms. Carson has many regular customers, including individuals, corporations, and organizations. She recently filled a corporate order for 60 classic pies, and she is especially busy during the holiday season. Weddings, birthday parties, anniversaries, graduations, and Valentine’s Day are other important events for her business.
Ms. Carson is now known for her wedding cakes of all kinds, and that is a growing part LilliPies’ operation.
Pies, however, remain the major focus, with apple and apple/blueberry the favorites, and also strawberry/rhubarb, and pear/almond. “I bake seasonally,” she reports. “I use apples in the fall, especially Stayman winesap from Terhune Orchards. Then, when it’s berry season, I’ll include all the berry pies. I emphasize healthy, fresh ingredients, all-butter crusts, and as many local organic ingredients as possible.
“The cookies include chocolate chip, oatmeal, and the popular Cowboy Cookies with everything in them, from oatmeal and coconut to chocolate chips and more.”
In addition to filling her regular orders, Ms. Carson will bring her products to the Princeton Winter Farmers Market once a month on Thursday in the Princeton Public Library.
She also teaches a course on baking at the Culinary School of Mercer County Community College and a class on healthy eating at the John Witherspoon Middle School.
Eventually, Ms. Carson hopes to open a retail operation, she adds. “I am so encouraged. I have so many repeat customers, and when I have a retail location, I hope to serve breakfast and lunch and to offer my own baked bread, along with the pastries. I plan to hold baking classes too.”
Ms. Carson enjoys providing LilliPies for her many customers despite the very early morning start to what can be a long day of baking in the Cucina. “When it’s a cold morning, I’ll turn on the oven, and there is a wonderful aroma. Then, I feel comfortable with the whole production.”
Princeton is the focal point of her business, she notes, and she has not only received support from her many customers but also from other chefs and businesses in town.
“I have really been surprised at how much support I’ve gotten from the community. Princeton is a special place. We’re right near the farm land, which surrounds us, and then there is education and art everywhere. You can meet the most interesting people you will ever know in your life at a dinner party here.”
Prices for the pies include $22 for a 9 inch pie; $27 for a dozen of the classic 4½ inch pies; $15 for a dozen of the mini pies; $10 for a bag of cranberry-almond granola; $2.50 for a granola bar; and $10 for a hot chocolate mix (bittersweet or white).
The pies and other baked goods are delivered free of charge in Princeton, or can be picked up at the Cucina location.
To place an order, call (609) 240-7738, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Website: http://lillipies.com